Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he was unaware Chinese security agents may have tried to infiltrate his communications systems during a visit to Beijing, as his government comes under fire over its ties with China.
Rudd and his traveling party were under constant cyber attack during the trip to the Olympic Games last August, with agents trying to hack into their laptop computers and mobile phones, the Australian reported yesterday.
“No security concerns that I’m aware of have been raised with me or my office in relation to that particular trip,” Rudd told reporters in London in response to a question on the story.
But he noted that a national security statement released by the government last December “clearly identified the threat of cyber attacks in Australia and clearly stated the following: ‘This challenge must be and will be met with full vigour.’”
The Chinese foreign ministry declined to comment.
Chinese spies also made repeated attempts to infiltrate government and business information networks and foreign embassies in Canberra, the Australian said, citing unidentified intelligence officials with knowledge of the matter.
The attacks prompted the domestic intelligence service and the defense spy agency to boost security for government information networks, the report said.
Rudd, a Mandarin speaker who served as a diplomat in Beijing, has been criticized by Australian opposition lawmakers over his relationship with China. They say his advocacy for the government in Beijing, including calls for it to have a greater say in international financial institutions, is detracting from the prime minister’s role of promoting Australian interests.
Rudd met last month in Canberra with Li Changchun (李長春), a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee, without informing the Australian media, who learnt of the talks from Chinese reports.
An opposition Liberal Party lawmaker said the prime minister was starting to look like The Manchurian Candidate, referring to the novel and movie about a man brainwashed into becoming a communist traitor.
Rudd’s Labor government dismisses such criticism. Last week, it blocked China Minmetals Group from acquiring the Prominent Hill copper and gold mine in South Australia, citing national security concerns. The site is close to the Australian military’s Woomera weapons testing range.